Julius Randle is Unselfishly Moving The Basketball
Two things I'll be keeping a close eye on once the real games begin: Randle's touch time and how many dribbles he takes before FG attempts.
As we cautioned last week about overreacting to preseason wins, the same rule will be applied to Wednesday night's exhibition loss to the Pacers in Indiana. The Knicks collapsed in the fourth quarter, giving up 20 points in the final four minutes. It was New York's first preseason defeat, but there were still some positives to take away.
The most significant among them was the play of Julius Randle, who once again looked good, especially in the first half, tallying 10 points (on 4-of-6 shooting), four rebounds and a game-high five assists in 16 minutes. It was the best half of basketball he has played in quite some time. He finished the game with 13 points, eight rebounds, five dimes, one block and three treys.
The most impressive aspect of Randle's performance throughout the preseason has been his decision-making and his willingness to facilitate, which has led to scoring opportunities for his teammates. Randle has dished out 13 assists through three games and committed only two turnovers. "He's been really moving the ball. He really got us going today," RJ Barrett said after Wednesday's game. "He got me a couple of easy ones. He's been playing really well. … Try to dribble less, move the ball more; that's really what it is. Move the ball, it's harder to defend."
There was a lot of talk coming into the season about how Randle would react to the addition of Jalen Brunson and the potential ascension of Barrett in the pecking order. Keep in mind, Randle has posted a Usage Rate north of 27% in each of the past four seasons, leading his team in that category each year. (Usage rate calculates what percentage of a team's plays end with that player attempting either a field-goal attempt or a free throw, or committing a turnover.)
To his credit, Randle has adjusted and adapted quite well early on. Through the Knicks' first three preseason games, Randle ranks fourth in Usage Rate (at 22.2%) and fourth in FG attempts, behind Brunson, Barrett and Immanuel Quickley.
After averaging 18 shots per game over the two prior years, Randle is attempting 10.3 field goals per contest this preseason.
The presence of Brunson and Randle's improved decision-making are the two biggest reasons New York is one of only 11 teams averaging more than 25 assists per game. Last season, the Knicks ranked dead last in the NBA in APG. New York's starters have also posted a wildly impressive 2.30 assist-to-turnover ratio this preseason, the best such mark in the NBA.
New York's starting five-man unit is averaging a league-leading 108 points per 100 possessions. Their Net Rating of +22.8 also leads the league by a wide margin (no other team has a Net Rating north of +15).
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